AFRICA – Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners (ESPartners), in collaboration with the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) and Ecobank, has launched the African Resilience Initiative for Entrepreneurs (ARIE), a pan-African initiative to provide financial and technical assistance to 300 entrepreneurs (approximately 70 percent of whom will be women-owned) impacted by COVID-19.
ARIE will support entrepreneurs from seven countries: Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda, and in the following sectors: Agri-Business, Manufacturing, Energy and Renewables, and Essential Services.
Each SME selected will have the opportunity to receive up to US$150,000 per firm, disbursed as an interest-free loan, and will receive technical support from experts across the continent.
“Entrepreneurs are an important part of the ecosystem; they create markets where there often are none and help pave the way for future economic development,” USADF President and CEO C.D. Glin said.
“Now more than ever we need to invest in the next generation of African-led ventures and empower them with the tools they need to transform their businesses, create jobs, increase incomes, attract private investment, and impact their communities.”
ARIE will provide Direct Relief for African Businesses. A survey by the International Trade Centre (ITC) shows that the pandemic has strongly affected nearly two-thirds of micro and small businesses around the world, with businesses in Africa being disproportionately affected.
It will also provide Intelligent Business Financing. In line with ESPartners’ drive to provide intelligent capital, the zero-interest loans will be disbursed to leading profitable businesses, providing them with the working capital they need to maintain operations and scale despite the pandemic.
Additionally, the ARIE platform will be a repository on a wide range of topics, including access to markets, building human capacity, and scaling.
ARIE will equipe SMEs with the tools to pivot since Africa’s businesses are as diverse as Africans are, and the immediate and concrete technical support available through the fund will be tailored to their unique needs.
Each entrepreneur will be assigned a business advisor that will support them in diagnosing and rethinking their strategy and operational efficiency and a team of experts that will help them adapt and navigate this present economic reality.
By doing this, the ARIE platform will provide African SMEs with unique opportunities and business exposure that position them to play a meaningful role in Africa’s economic recovery in the years to come.
It will connect African businesses in an era where intra-Africa trade is key. The ARIE platform will help SMEs harness opportunities unleashed by the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area.
The ARIE platform will help connect African SMEs to potential investors and networks they require to expand their geographical coverage and will enhance their capacity to trade across borders. These connections will be critical is recouping devastated African economies and jumpstarting economic recovery.